John Mollo – Military Fashion / Starwars / Alien

John Mollo - Military Fashion


John Mollo - Military Fashion - Russian Officers Tunic

John Mollo - Military Fashion - Cuirass and Helmet

John Mollo - Grand Moff Tarkin

John Mollo - The Empire

John Mollo - AT AT Drivers

John Mollo - Red Six






Another slight delay on Sci-Fi-O-Rama updates, I was going to run this post to coincide with aprils royal wedding, no real reason other than the pomp and circumstance of that day was nicely mirrored by the splender of the four examples of pre-Bolshevik uniforms featured above. Didn’t quite happen in time, so here it is 2 and a bit weeks late…

So then, what connects this selection of Imperialist Russian Military dress to George Lucas’s original Star Wars and Ridley Scott’s Alien? Well thats actually a slight trick question as the answer is not what but who, Oscar winning British costume designer and author John Mollo.

I first became aware of and interested in John Mollo’s work several years back when, in order to satisfy nerd curiosity I purchased several ‘official’ embodied patches from that were worn by the various Nostromo crew members in Alien. Ordered via ebay they arrived with an unexpected bonus, an 8 sided, folding A4 pamphlet detailing (amongst other production notes) Mollo’s original sketches and design thoughts, such as where inspiration was drawn from. The pamphlet also makes reference to ‘Military Fashion’ a book written by Mollo described as a “definitive work”, I added this too my Amazon wish list and finally made the effort to pick up a copy earlier this year. It’s with that book that I start this post, but before diving into the detail here’s a little more information on Mollo himself.

John Mollo’s path to becoming a double academy award winning costume designer (Starwars 1978, Ghandi 1983) was born out of a devoted love of European and American military uniforms, something he’d developed from a young age and a passion that lead him to become and avid collector, author and subsequent authority on the subject. His first work within the movie industry occurred 1966 when he was recruited to act as a military advisor on the Crimean war epic ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’. Later he would work with Stanley Kubrick on his cult 1975 period drama “Barry Lyndon’ before linking up with George Lucas, Ralph Mcquarrie and crew as the costume designer for Starwars IV “A New Hope” creating probably the the most iconic and recognisable Sci-Fi garb ever…

Here’s a breakdown on the selected imagery, I realise the post jumps about a tad as first we have actual historical dress and then it’s re-imagining. The key thing in trying to compare the two is too really study the detail, every tiny nuance means something.

Top Image: (Military Fashion) Russia, Officer’s ‘Attila’, Life Guard Hussar Regiment, His Majesty’s 1881-94. Mollo Collection.

2nd Top: (Military Fashion) Russia, Officer’s khaki service dress jacket and ‘Sam Browne’ belt. Guard and line infantry regiments, 1908-17. Mollo Collection.

3rd Top: (Military Fashion) Russia, Officers tunic or ‘mundir’, Artillery of the Guard, 1908-14. Mollo Collection.

4th Top: (Military Fashion) Russia, Officers cuirass and helmet, Life Guard Horse Guard Regiment, c. 1860. A similar pattern was in use from 1846-1914. Mollo Collection.

5th Top: (Starwars) Character ‘Grand Moff Tarkin’ played by Peter Cushing. I know this image is a little small but pose really sets up a specific comparison to the Officer’s khaki service jacket (2nd top). Very similar in terms of cut, though the green is a lot more washed out and drab.

6th Top: (Starwars) Characters ‘Grand Moff Tarkin’ and ‘Commander #1’ more Peter Cushing this time with another Brit baddie, Leslie Schofield, image via

7th Top: (Empire Strikes Back) View from the bridge of the AT-AT, note the detailing on the drivers helmets, essentially these were just modified Tie Fighter pilot helmets from the original film sprayed snow grey. Image via the amazing more on that site in a moment…

8th Top: (Starwars) A great movie still of everyones favourite slightly overweight and doomed X-Wing pilot ‘Red Six’, played by the late William Hootkins, image once again via John Mollo used a US APH-6B Helmet as the base on which to create the rebel helmets, love the graphical language of the helmets symbols, which leads me on to…

9th Top (Alien) Pin lapel details from a set available to buy on ebay, I should actually point out that I think these might of been created by another Alien production designer – Ron Cobb. These pins were are seen in the movie either worn on the collar or jacket breast, and in the case of Dallas even glued onto a belt buckle. From clockwise and top left we have “Navigation Officer” as worn by Lambert, top left “Science Officer” as warn by Ash, Bottom Right is “Engineering” as is warn by Parker and Brett and finally bottom left indicates “Executive Officer” and is warn by Ripley, Dallas and Kane.

10th/11th Top (Alien) The Nostromo main patch is warn by all the crew members at all times, visible on jackets and t-shirts on the shoulder and on Brett’s cap. The design (definitely by Mollo) is based upon military uniform buttons from the French Restoration Period, see the sketch below. The patch carries the ships name and serial number

12th Top(Alien) A sketch for the Weyland Yutani logo, the infamous Anglo-Japanese corporation who crop up again in the subsequent sequels and (awful) spin offs. Note that the Weyland Yutani logo in Alien (a simple egyptian wing) is completely different to the one that features prominently in 1986 sequal Aliens.

Bottom (Alien) Sketches produced by Mollo or Cobb on a draft of the original script.

That pretty much wraps it all up, but before I finish I’ll point one amazingly useful resource for further reading. Starwars fans you definitely need to check out this site, it’s just superb and there’s actually an interview with Mollo on there too

15 thoughts on “John Mollo – Military Fashion / Starwars / Alien”

  1. Quite a niche article, one for all those sci-fi military tailors out there. ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ is a great little movie that I’ve been meaning to rewatch for years, some neat little animated sections in it as far as I remember. I’m shamed to say I still have to watch ‘Barry Lyndon’.

  2. Cheers for the comment Alfie, haha yes quite a niche article I guess, but actually Costume Design is probably the area of Sci-Fi I’m most into…

    Allthough I might of written the article to suggest otherwise, I’ve not seen Charge of the Light Brigade nor Barry Lyndon! Another film a friend was telling me is absolutely amazing is Ridley Scott’s ‘The Duelists’ have you seen that?

  3. Nope, haven’t seen that either. I might get myself a pith helmet, put on my best lapelled shirt and have an historic military dvd triple bill some day. Have you ever had the chance to attend movie costume/prop clear out sales? I think there was a specific war/military one in London a year or two ago.

  4. Thanks for all the kind thoughts but yes, I did design the lapel badges for ALIEN and have the drawings to prove it.

  5. I’m a long-time collector of Imperial Russian uniforms and am the current owner of the red officer’s Atilla of the Life Guard Hussar’s Regiment pictured above.

    An older fellow in New York (whose name I will not publish) bought many items from the Mollo family back in the 1970’s. I purchase the Atilla from this person about six years ago.

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  7. I saw this site when searching for information on John Mollo. I have been contacted by Mr. Dennis Lowe, FX-technician on ALIEN, who would like to contact Mr Mollo regarding an ALIEN-documentary movie. If Mr. John Mollo reads this, please get in contact with me or better yet with Mr. Dennis Lowe.

  8. I just bought “The Star Wars Costumes” and my personal highlight were all the production details Mr. Mollo was sharing with us, many thanks for that.

    I had hoped that the book editors would have also allowed Mr. Mollo to tell us a little about the rank badge hierarchy of rebel and imperial uniforms, but unfortunately there was no such information.

    Given Mr. Mollo’s involvement with Royal Navy uniforms (e.g. the Hornblower TV series) I had always thought that the blue and red on the imperial Star Wars rank badges was to reflect a combined naval / army service (blue = naval, red = marines).

    Back in 1987 I tried to “decipher” Mr. Mollo’s supposed system which even made it to the West End Games “Expanded Universe” sourcebook, but up to this day I’m not sure I really got it right.

    So yes, I would also be looking to get in touch with Mr. Mollo to put such questions to rest.

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